Artificial intelligence (AI) already impacts the way modern companies do business. It’s evident in our daily lives as well, with social media and search engine algorithms, smart home devices, and digital transactions all backed by AI. The potential of AI to become an integral part of even more products, services, and processes is clear in the USPTO’s recent patent landscape analysis, Inventing AI: Tracing the diffusion of artificial intelligence with U.S. patents. The analysis used artificial intelligence to identify patent applications containing AI. The resulting report highlights trends between 1976 and 2018, as well as patterns emerging between 2002 and 2018, in order to address the impact of the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA).
AI innovation is growing in multiple ways. Most obvious is the growth in AI patent applications themselves. In 2002, there were 30,000 patent applications related to AI. In 2018, that number more than doubled to over 60,000. It’s important to note that AI patent applications grew faster than the overall increase in applications during this time frame. They accounted for 9% of all patent applications in 2002, and 16% in 2018. AI innovations classified as planning/control and knowledge processing increased fastest over the 16-year period. These types of AI are also diffusing across industries and regions the fastest.
As a technology—such as AI—diffuses, it has even more power to change how people live, work, and innovate. The USPTO’s analysis found that as more industries find uses for AI and patent their innovations, the regions patenting AI also diversify. Not only is AI innovation happening on the east and west coasts. It’s also occurring in North Dakota, where AI is used in agriculture; in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Kansas, where AI is changing healthcare; and in Maine and South Carolina, where innovations in data processing are happening.
Interestingly, the number of regions, industries, companies, and inventors applying for AI patents are all growing. In 2018, “25% of all unique inventor-patentees… used AI technologies in their granted patents.” In 1976, that number was just 1%. Over the last 10 years, “the share of inventors using AI is even greater than the share of organizations using AI.” Not only is the number of entities patenting AI innovations growing, but the number of inventors within those organizations working with AI is also increasing.